Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer
Frustrated by high levels of crime in Westmoreland, Savanna-la-Mar Mayor Bertel Moore has urged the police to adopt a "shoot-first" policy to help bring the situation under control.
"We cannot have these killings continue to happen in our parish, so I am suggesting to the police to shoot first and then ask questions later," said Moore.
The mayor was addressing last Thursday's sitting of the Westmoreland Parish Council.
"These crimes cannot continue to happen like that," he said.
The parish of Westmoreland ranks as the fourth bloodiest police division this summer, National Security Minister Peter Bunting said in the House of Representatives last week.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Warren Clarke, the commanding officer for Area One (Westmoreland, Hanover, St James and Trelawny), was dismissive of Moore's suggestion.
"The advice runs counter to our rules of engagement," he told The Gleaner when asked for a comment.
"We are duty-bound to fire only when our lives or somebody else's life is threatened," Clarke added.
The outspoken Moore made the statement while bemoaning both the absence of the police from the council's monthly meetings, which they are mandated to attend, and rampant crime in the parish.
"I am getting very frustrated with the police. ... I have been hearing about shootings and chopping-ups all over the parish and I am not hearing of the police arresting anyone, which makes it very difficult for us," the mayor added.
Drives away investment
Moore underscored that crime has the potential to drive away investment, which makes it both undesired and counter-productive.
"We need to first try and harness the crime situation ... . It is not good for our parish and for Jamaica as a whole," stated Moore.
"When crimes go unsolved, it does not set a good precedent for investors to come to Westmoreland and invest," the mayor argued.
"I wish today there was someone from the security force here to just at least give us feedback on what is happening in our parish and to see if there is anyway we can work towards solving crime."
Meanwhile, Clarke said the police will be reaching out to the mayor.
"I understand the mayor's frustration, and I am sure the leadership of the Westmoreland police is only too willing to meet with him and discuss his concerns," Clarke said.
Last week, Bunting said the level of violence across the island started rising in summer and is threatening the gains, which have been made over the last three years.
He pointed out that there was an increase in the number of murders during the months of July and August. He said that for the period June 30 to August 31, there were 251 murders at an average of 4.0 murders per day, up from the average daily murder rate of 2.9 before summer.
The minister said the police divisions with the highest number of murders occurred were St James (35), St. Catherine North (29), Clarendon (25), Westmoreland (21), St Andrew South (18), St Catherine South (17), and Kingston West (15).